Fears Taxi shortage will leave Sydneysiders stranded in 2023
Updated: Jan 12
A dire shortage of drivers for taxis and rideshares like Uber is at risk of leaving Sydneysiders stranded ahead of a year of major events, with the head of the city’s peak business body calling on the government to change the rules allowing new migrants to get behind the wheel.
Paul Nicolaou, Business Sydney’s executive director, has written to transport Minister David Elliott calling on him to slash the time a potential driver must hold a licence for before driving a taxi or rideshare from 12 months to six months over a period of four years.
Mr Nicolaou said upcoming events such as WorldPride, which is predicted to attract more than 500,000 revellers to the city over February and March, would stretch the battered workforce to the limit.
He told The Telegraph he had concerns the influx of tourists, along with the busy summer period, would result in the current point to point system being overloaded.
“When (the summer period restarts after the New Year’s lull) and we’ve got WorldPride, we’re not going to have enough drivers to cater to the needs of tourists and locals,” he said.
“We’re desperate to ensure we’ve got enough taxis and Ubers available over the next six months.”
Mr Nicolaou pinned the exodus of taxi and rideshare drivers on an older demographic of drivers choosing not to drive during the Covid-19 pandemic and not returning to the industry, as well as a large number of overseas students or migrants who left the country but have since returned and now aren’t eligible to drive again.
The NSW Government late last year relaxed rules stipulating drivers had to hold an unrestricted licence for 12 months over two years before driving a taxi or rideshare, with the time cut down to 12 months over four years.
But Nick Abrahim, the deputy chief executive officer of the NSW Taxi Council which was at the forefront of pushing for the previous changes, said the changes had to go even further.
“We’d like to see NSW follow other jurisdictions like Victoria and South Australia which have a six month requirement, while the ACT has zero months … NSW is still one of the (longest),” he said.
“It’s the perfect time to welcome drivers back to the industry with a major pipeline of events coming up. Our concern is if we don’t address this shortage of drivers … we won’t have enough cars back on the road meet that demand.”
Transport Minister David Elliott said he was “more than happy to consider” further changes and was “sympathetic to the issue” but at the same time was facing a withering 1000 job shortfall in bus drivers.
“I’ll certainly look at it but we’ve also got a thousand job vacancies for bus drivers,” he said.